A few years ago I found a smoking deal on a Cycleops indoor trainer. This was back when I was in Solon.

Back then I got it when I was very close to the country and all sorts of spectacular riding roads with little traffic. I got it to keep in shape in the long Cleveland winters. It worked well for that.

When I moved to Seattle the roles were a bit reversed. While I could mostly ride year-round here since the climate is so much more temperate than northeast Ohio, the roads around my house leave a bit to be desired. While I can use the bike as a mode of transportation, there’s a lot fewer opportunities to just ride for fun without getting into confrontations with cars.

This is where the trainer really is a win.

enjoy riding, but I don’t want to ride that much around Seattle. Yes, it’s a bike friendly city for the most part, but the rides aren’t that enjoyable like back in Solon.

With the trainer I can ride just about anywhere in the world and get a taste for the freedom I somewhat lost.

About a month or so ago I decided to upgrade from a small monitor that I had lying around to a bigger TV.

This upped the fun even more.

On some rides I have video from the course itself that folks from around the interwebs have uploaded. In other cases I follow along on a map — along some of my favorite rides from Solon in many cases. I have some training videos I purchased from Sufferfest (yes, it can get a bit painful I have to admit). Then there’s boring rides that just build a base — for those I just pop on Netflix and watch something. (And now I have sound!)

The good

The bike just plain rocks. While it’s not 100% the same as being outside, it’s most of the way there and can really get you a change of pace. Even in Cleveland I was using it to ride around other parts of the world. Keeping things fresh give me more incentive to actually work out.

The biggest thing from a pure fitness aspect is the power measurement. The fact that I can objectively know how much power I’m generating helps gauge where I am on the fitness spectrum. While not exiting, I can push 150W (or whatever) as a base-building exercise. It’s also what allows the system to model real-world roads. Knowing how much effort I’m exerting (again, in an absolute sense) and what “gear” I’m in it can determine how fast I’m going up a hill for instance based on the grade of the hill.

This gets into the auto resistance setting. Knowing the gear and power output, it can set the resistance to match. If, for instance, I want to ride at 150W for an hour, I can keep any cadence I want — if I’m peddling fast it’ll dial in a lower resistance (think something like a short gear), or I can ride slowly with a higher resistance (a tall gear). In either case I’m outputting the same power, but it’s giving me the same workout.

The integration of the Virtual Training site to other online resources like Strava is pretty damn cool. While “riding” on virtual routes, I can compete with other folks on the same stretches of road to see how I stack up. Again, another thing to keep things interesting.

From an adjustability standpoint, this can fit just about anyone. Everything moves around. This is really gym-level quality on all parts of the bike.

The bad

Around a month ago I wrote about the janky Joule 3.0 controller. That’s the device that originally came with the trainer. It predates the virtual training software and was just kind of OK. After I got the virtual training on the computer I only used it to change “gears.” Until it broke. The new setup I think is even better anyway.

The other strange thing I ran into is the the Google Earth view spontaneously stopped working. I don’t want to blame the software since it could well be a driver issue, but it is a loss. Google Maps and StreetView still work great though.

The verdict

If you can justify the cost of something like this (it is pricy) and you do a lot of working out this is a worthwhile investment. I like it a lot. At this point I’m training mainly to lose weight, but I’m getting back in shape too. When the spring rolls around I’ll be ready to hit the roads (annoying as they might be) without having to start from scratch.